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The Whyos Gang

The Whyos Gang

The Whyos Gang came into existence in N. York after the Civil War. They were the most vicious and terrifying street gang seen in the city. "The Whyos" dominated the fourth Ward of the lower East Side and headquartered at Mulberry Bend. The Whyos considered the whole of Manhattan their providence and some of their 500 members were at one time or another constantly raiding territories of the Greenwich Village or West Side Gangs.

Their central drinking spa was aptly named The Morgue and was the scene of at least 100 violent murders.

The Whyos members usually drew guns on each other and killed each other until the wee hours in the morning at The Morgue.

Whyos leaders

Mike McGloin(d.3/8/1883), Captain of the gang, was hanged in the Tombs Prison for Killing Louis Hanrei, a West 25th St salon-keeper. An early member of the Whyos, Michael McGloin would rise to become leader of the gang by the late 1870s. Continuing the ruthless tactics of his predecessors "Dandy" Jim Dolan, Piker Ryan and others of the previous decade, McGloin terrorized New York's Westside, particularly Hell's Kitchen throughout the last years of the 1870s.

On the night of December 29, 1881, four members of the Whyos (presumably including McGloin) entered a local Hell's Kitchen tavern owned by Louis Hanier. As one of the men asked to change a $10 bill, another man suddenly became ill and tried to get behind the bar. Asking the men to leave, there was no further incident until around midnight when Hanier closed the bar and went upstairs to bed. Sometime around 2:00 am, Hanier's wife reported hearing noises coming from downstairs. When Hanier attempted to investigate, he was shot and killed by an unidentified gunman.

Led by NYPD police superintendent Inspector Thomas F. Byrnes, police investigation was able to trace the murder weapon, a 38. caliber pistol, to a pawn shop on Ninth Avenue, which had previously been owned by McGloin. However attempts to gain further evidence against him, including assigning a woman to live with the 19 year old gang leader in the hopes of gaining a confession, proved fruitless as further attempts proved inconclusive.

Byrnes, accompanied by Captain Williams and six other officers, raided the Whyos headquarters, arresting gang members Thomas Moran, Frederick Banfield, and Robert Morrisey on January 31, 1882. McGloin, convinced that the other members would testify against him, admitted to breaking into the tavern and killing Hanier, however, he claimed self-defense, believing Hanier was armed. On March 1, McGloin was tried alongside Moran and Morrisey and, after eleven minutes of discussion among the jury, McGloin was convicted by the General Sessions of first degree murder and sentenced to death while Moran and Morrisey received eight years imprisonment for burglary. Despite being granted a stay of execution after several pleas for appeal, McGloin was hanged in The Tombs on March 8, 1883.

Piker Ryan led the gang in 1884. Danny Lyons and Danny Driscoll (Above standing) headed the gang by 1887.

Driscoll(d.1/23/1888) was hanged in prison for the shooting death of a prostitute named Breezy Garriety. Lyons(d.8/21/1988) shot to death Joseph Quinn, a fellow gangster, in a noonday gun battle at in Paradise Square at The Five Points on July 5, 1887 over a prostitute named "Pretty Kitty" McGown. Two of Lyons prostitutes, "Lizzie the Dove" and "Gentle Maggie" got into a fight over Lyons loss. Maggie drew a knife and plunged it into Lizzies throat killing her.

"Dandy John" Dolan(d.4/21/1876) killed a manufacture, James Noe, in the summer of 1875. Dolan was hanged for the murder. "Dandy" Johnny Dolan (1849 or 1850 – April 21, 1876) was a New York City murderer and reputed leader of the Whyos street gang. According to Herbert Asbury's book The Gangs of New York, Dolan led the Whyos during its glory years of the post-Civil War era. Asbury wrote that Dolan was known as a particularly inventive criminal, who perfected a variety of devices widely used for assault and murder throughout the underworld. According to Asbury, Dolan designed a copper eye gouger to be worn on the thumb and used it both in criminal activities and in battles with other gangs. Dolan himself allegedly owned a personally designed pair of boots with sections of a sharp axe blade embedded in the soles, which he used to stomp a downed victim.

Asbury is the main and possibly only known public source of this description of Dolan as a man who engaged in chronic physical violence, enucleated his victims and led the Whyos. There is room for doubt as to the validity of Asbury's claims, which were written fifty years after Dolan's death.

A biography of Dolan published by the New York Times newspaper in 1876 contains many details about Dolan's criminal history, but never once describes him as an eye-gouger or gang member. It states that he was a petty thief and burglar who, before his final arrest on a murder charge, served two terms in Blackwell's Island Penitentiary for larceny, one of four and the other of six months, as well as a two-and-a-half year term in the State Prison at Sing Sing for burglary. A separate Times report describes him as "well known in the various low saloons on the Bowery as a man of desperate character." It says that he once tried to kill a man in a saloon and intended to use a heavy sling shot to do it.

Dolan died for the murder of merchant James H. Noe, 59. On the morning of August 22, 1875, Noe, the owner of a Greenwich Street brush factory, went to check on his business. He surprised a burglar who was attempting to enter through the scuttle in the roof and engaged in a fatal battle with him.

According to Asbury, Dolan attacked Noe with eye gougers before beating him to death with an iron bar. According to the Times, the burglar struck Noe on the head with a rattan cane, then grabbed an iron tube ("paint-iron") and repeatedly hit Noe over the head with it. After Noe collapsed, the burglar was even "considerate enough to provide a pillow for the bleeding, mangled head," using rags found on the floor, the Times wrote. The burglar then bound and gagged Noe, and robbed him of several items, including a watch and chain. Noe survived several days before dying. Of damage to the eyes, a post-mortem report mentions "a lacerated wound" on the upper lid of the left eye and a "fissure of the frontal bone." Official cause of death was meningitis caused by the injuries.

Still conscious when found, Noe could describe his attacker. The official police description was of a man 24–30 years of age, with light complexion and light hair cut short; and clean shaven, except for small dark side whiskers, 5'5"-6' tall; of a stout, fleshy build; full, fat face; supposedly of Irish parentage. The Times describes Dolan as about 26, 5'7½" tall, dark complexioned, "with a brutal face and that singular and massive jaw which led to his detection." At the time of his arrest, some six weeks after the assault, Dolan had a mustache but no side whiskers.

According to underworld lore, Dolan later presented his victim's gouged eyes before other members of the Whyos and was apprehended after he was connected to the stolen watch and chain and the finding of a specialized cane hidden at the crime scene. The cane, thought to have been used to bludgeon Noe, had a metal handle carved into the likeness of a monkey.

Times reports make no mention of gouged eyes or Whyos, but do say that Dolan was arrested after pawning a watch that belonged to Noe. The pawnbroker initially declined to identify Dolan, but then did so later, apparently basing his recollection on the shape of Dolan's jaw. Witnesses also identified the cane as belonging to Dolan. For his part, Dolan said he was at his mother's house, drunk, at the time of the murder. He said someone had given him the watch to pawn, a man who was never found. Dolan said his cane had a silver helmet (of "real silver") not a monkey head, on it. (This claim was actually backed by one of the witnesses who had said the assault cane was Dolan's.) The third bit of circumstantial evidence was a handkerchief found soaked with blood used to gag Noe. A witness, subjected to intense and repeated police interrogation, identified the handkerchief as belonging to Dolan, who denied that the cloth was his.

Dolan was tried and found guilty of murder in the first degree. Represented by attorney William F. Howe (lawyer), Dolan went to lengthy efforts to save himself and won several stays of execution. However, he eventually lost his desperate legal battle. When sentenced to death for the second time, Dolan rose, told the judge, "I never lifted my hand against any man ... I never shed human blood," and burst into tears.

He was hanged on April 21, 1876, on a cold, damp evening, at the Tombs Prison in New York City. The official cause of death was strangulation. His remains were buried at Calvary Cemetery. He was 26. He was survived by a wife, a mother and little sister.

For 40 yrs. The Whyos ruled the underworld in N. York, but faded at the turn of the century with the coming of The Eastmans and The Five Point Gang. Whyos

he Whyos, a collection of the various post-Civil War street gangs of New York, was the city's dominant street gang during the late 19th century. The gang controlled most of Manhattan from the late 1860s until the early 1890s, when the Monk Eastman Gang defeated the last of the Whyos. The name came from the gang’s cry, which sounded like a bird or owl calling, "Why-oh!"

Consisting largely of criminals ranging from pickpockets to murderers, the Whyos were formed from what remained of the old Five Points street gangs following the NYPD campaigns against gang activity, particularly from 1866–1868. Originally forming from members of the Chichesters, the gang soon began absorbing other former rivals and soon dominated New York's Fourth Ward, an Irish slum notorious for its crime, by the early 1870s.

The Whyos had several leaders, but longest reigning were Danny Lyons (arrested for the murder of gangster Joseph Quinn), his girlfriend ("Pretty" Kitty McGowan) and Danny Driscoll (hanged at Tombs Prison for the death of Breezy Garrity during a gunfight with rival Five Points gangster Johnny McCarthy).

The members were predominantly Irish, but unlike the Irish gangs of the past, victimized anyone - not just white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Driscoll and Lyons eventually decreed that in order to be a real Whyo, the person must have killed at least once. They were so powerful that most of the other gangs at the time had to ask their permission to operate.

The headquarters shifted many times throughout the years: "Dry Dollar" Sullivan’s Chrystie Street saloon, a churchyard at Prince and Mott Streets, and its original headquarters the notorious Bowery dive known as The Morgue. The tavern was the scene of at least 100 violent murders in its early years, as hour long gunfights between drunken gang members would frequently occur.

During the 1870s, the gang would include some of the most notorious gangsters of the era, including Red Rocks Farrell, Slops (also sometimes known as Clops) Connolly, "Big" Josh Hines, Hoggy Walsh, Piker Ryan, Dorsey Doyle, Bull Hurley, Fig McGerald, and Googy Corcoran.

Many of the gangsters were among the first to use present day methods that would later be adopted by rival gangs, and eventually organized crime organizations in the early twentieth century. One notable example is Josh Hines, often seen wearing a pair of pistols, who would regularly arrive at illegal gambling dens and faro games demanding a percentage of the night's profits from the owners. While being questioned by a police detective regarding the extortion activities, possibly when several owners complained, Hines was said to have replied "Those guys must be nuts ! Don't I always leave 'em somethin' ? All I want is me fair share."

Another prominent member, "Dandy" John Dolan, is noted for inventing several unique gang weapons including a set of shoes in which pieces of an ax blade were embedded and a copper eye gouger (worn on the thumb), first used in a robbery in the summer of 1875. As he attempted to rob a local jewelry store, the owner James H. Noe attempted to stop Dolan and was beaten with an iron crowbar. Dolan then proceeded to use the eye gouger on Noe, taking the eyes with him. Often showing them off to friends, the eyes were found in Dolan's possession while being interrogated by Police Detective Joseph M. Dorsey. He would eventually be convicted of murder and hanged at Tombs Prison on April 21, 1876.

The Whyos, at their peak by the late 1870s and early 1880s, were led by Mike McGloin who began moving the gang into extortion, prostitution, and murder for hire (although this had been practiced earlier by members such as "Big" Josh Hines, "Dandy" John Dolan, and Piker Ryan). McGloin also implemented one requirement for prospective members to commit at least one murder stating in 1883 "A guy ain't tough until he has knocked his man out!"

Aside from committing many crimes, the Whyos also offered specific criminal services for a price. The following list was found on Piker Ryan when he was arrested by the NYPD in 1884.

Punching $1

Both eyes blacked $3

Nose and jaw broke $7

Jacked out (knocked out with a Blackjack) $15

Ear chewed off $15

Leg or arm broke $19

Shot in the leg $20

Stab $21.50

"Doing the big job" (murder) $100 and up

In 1884, McGloin was arrested for the murder of saloon owner Louis Hanier and hanged at Tombs Prison on March 8 of that year. Danny Driscoll and Danny Lyons would eventually jointly lead the gang by 1887, however they would both be executed in 1888 for separate murders and hanged on January 23 and August 21 respectively.

With the deaths of Driscoll and Lyons, the gang never regained its former status as its members were eventually imprisoned or killed. As Monk Eastman and the Five Points Gang came to prominence in the mid-1890s, many gangs began working with Tammany Hall providing considerable political protection. However, the Whyos continued their violent activities ending in their last great battle between fellow Whyos as members Denver Hop and English Charley began fighting over shares of a recent robbery. As they began shooting at each other, a major gunfight involving at least 20 other members began. No one was injured however, as all had been intoxicated, as the press reported the Morgue's owner had felt the gangs had been silly to think they would hit anything after drinking his liquor. The